Hackaday Links: March 22, 2020

Within the span of just two months, our world of unimaginable plenty and ready access to goods manufactured across the globe has been transformed into one where the bare essentials of life are hard to find at any price. The people on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 are suffering supply chain pinches too, often at great risk to their health. Lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE), especially face masks, is an acute problem, and the shortage will only exacerbate the problem as healthcare workers go down for the count. Factories are gearing up to make more masks, but in the meantime, the maker and hacker community can pitch in. FreeSewing, an open-source repository of sewing patterns, has a pattern for a simple face mask called the Fu that can be made quickly by an experienced threadworker. Efficacy of the masks made with that pattern will vary based on the materials used, obviously; a slightly less ad hoc effort is the 100 Million Mask Challenge, where volunteers are given a pattern and enough lab-tested materials to make 100 face masks. If you know how to sew, getting involved might make a difference.

As people around the world wrap their heads around the new normal of social distancing and the loss of human contact, there’s been an understandable spike in interest in amateur radio. QRZ.com reports that the FCC has recorded an uptick in the number of amateur radio licenses issued since the COVID-19 outbreak, and license test prep site HamRadioPrep.com has been swamped by new users seeking to prepare for taking the test. As we’ve discussed, the barrier for entry to ham radio is normally very low, both in terms of getting your license and getting the minimal equipment needed to get on the air. One hurdle aspiring hams might face is the cancellation of so-called VE testing, where Volunteer Examiners administer the written tests needed for each license class. Finding a face-to-face VE testing session now might be hard, but the VEs are likely to find a way to adapt. After all, hams were social distancing before social distancing was cool.

The list of public events that have been postponed or outright canceled by this pandemic is long indeed, with pretty much everything expected to draw more than a handful of people put into limbo. The hacking world is not immune, of course, with many high-profile events scuttled. But we hackers are a resourceful bunch, and the 10th annual Open Source Hardware Summit managed to go off on schedule as a virtual meeting last week. You can watch the nearly eight-hour livestream while you’re self-isolating. We’re confident that other conferences will go virtual in the near-term too rather than cancel outright.

And finally, if you’re sick of pandemic news and just want some escapist engineering eye candy, you could do worse than checking out what it takes to make a DSLR camera waterproof. We’ve honestly always numbered cameras as among the very least waterproof devices, but it turns out that photojournalists and filmmakers are pretty rough on their gear and expect it to keep working even so. The story here focuses (sorry) on Olympus cameras and lenses, which you’ll note that Takasu-san only ever refers to as “splash-proof”, and the complex system of O-rings and seals needed to keep water away from their innards. For our money, the best part was learning that lenses that have to change their internal volume, like zoom lenses, need to be vented so that air can move in and out. The engineering needed to keep water out of a vented system like that is pretty impressive.

Windows 95 Running On An N95

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We’ve had this same hack submitted by two people, pointing to two different(translated) sources(translated) today. It seems with a recent version of dos box, you can load windows 3.1 or windows 95 on N95 or N85 devices. They’re both in polish, so they may be the same people posting in different places.  If you can follow along, there seems to be sufficient information to do this yourself. We don’t know why you would want to, but you could. You can see a video of it in action after the break.

Continue reading “Windows 95 Running On An N95”

BlackBerry Storm Click Screen Teardown

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RIM has decided to venture into the touchscreen phone market with the new BlackBerry Storm. Unlike other companies’ offerings, the Storm has a touchscreen that clicks when you press it. phoneWreck disassembled the Storm to see what magic was involved in the device. There’s not much too it, it’s just a big button. pW notes that the entire phone board is very compact mostly due to RIM using Qualcomm’s latest MSM7600 chip. Items like bluetooth, GPS, and USB are all included in the processor instead of appearing on the board as discrete components.

phoneWreck recently launched and promises many future teardowns. They’ll be adding to their archive which already includes the Motorola Krave and the venerable Nokia N95. We’ll definitely be watching for their future releases.

[via Engadget]

Flickr Photo Bike

Lifehacker’s [Gina Trapani] has one of Flickr’s photo bikes and wrote up how it works. As you ride, the bike automatically takes photographs, geotags them, and uploads them to Flickr. The handlebar unit contains a Nokia N95 cellphone. The rear is a solar powered charging unit. It has a custom python script that starts the photo taking sequence when it detects the bike is in motion using the phone’s accelerometer.

Most of the engineering seems to be for usability’s sake. We’re guessing they probably wanted to disguise that they’re bolting a $600 cellphone to a bike as well. Out of the box the Nokia N95 already does almost everything required. It has a 5 megapixel camera with an interval timer that can vary from 10 seconds to 30 minutes. It supports Flickr uploading, but with software like ShoZu you can streamline the geotagging and make all uploads automatic. Just build a solid mount for your N95 and you’ve pretty much got it, and when you park your bike you can take the phone with you.

In The Lab: SIM Reader


Adafruit Industries sent us one of their SIM Reader kits a few weeks ago to test. Assembly was a breeze thanks to the through hole components and good documentation. We plugged it into our USB -> RS232 converter and tried out the provided pySimReader software. It worked fine, but our modern SIM card out of an N95 didn’t prove very interesting. It was too new to attempt cloning and being a smart phone it doesn’t rely on the SIM for storing anything unless you specifically tell it to. The story was the same for a SIM we pulled out of a Treo. We tried the device with [Dejan]’s SimScan and a copy of Woron Scan. Both worked without any issue. Conclusion: the device works great despite us lacking anything interesting to do with it.

Ultraportable Laser Graffiti?


[Sittiphol Phanvilai]’s multitouch screen project was posted a couple different places today. It uses the Nokia N95 to track light pens and draws the resulting paths on the video output. We immediately saw the applications for this in laser tagging. Right now if you want to do laser tagging you need to haul a laptop with you in addition to the projector. With some modification to the NeuScreen software you could replace the laptop with just cellphone plugged directly into the projector.